Music: I Knew You Were Trouble

Mike Fairburn, General Manager at Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, offers his thoughts on how music should be used more effectively by PRs and Marketers in the region…

 “Music skirts around the brand’s edges when really the two of them should be hitting the dance floor and doing the greatest Rumba we’ve ever seen.”

See what I’ve done there? Used a Taylor Swift track to cleverly set up my theme: Do regional brands see music and think ‘trouble’?

Well, to many professional PRs and marketers in the region music is a bit of an enigma; something we all know, and love, but somehow struggle when it comes to building meaningful brand campaigns. Brands flirt with it. Dabble here and there. Music skirts around the brand’s edges when really the two of them should be hitting the dance floor and doing the greatest Rumba we’ve ever seen.

It feels like trouble, but it isn’t really – it’s the world’s single most powerful communication tool. Music is the world’s number one leisure pursuit, number one driver of social traffic, number one reason for visiting YouTube and one of the biggest drivers of mobile data consumption. In some countries, music accounts for up to 60% of time spent online. In 2014, music was streamed over 400 billion times. We estimate there are 40+ million records in existence. It’s rapid, it’s everywhere, and it links us all; every culture, background and language.

This region has over 350 million listeners and one of the youngest listening groups on the planet (68% under the age of 34). Mobile penetration is through the roof with the growth of Internet penetration not far off. Music is interweaved with the heritage of Arabia, and Western music remains as popular as ever with major international platforms Apple Music and Guvera entering the market this year. Yet still, we see few examples of brands committing, long term, to deep music engagement – or ‘music platforms’ as we call them in the industry.

So why aren’t more regional brands hurling themselves into music?

There are many theories of course; budgets, agency priorities, global and local brand guidelines, traditional media spending or simply bad advice, but one reason is a lack of clear navigation around how to relate to and activate in music. Take sports, art and film. They all share one commonality – deep analytics, and a tried and tested model of brand activation.

For sports this model includes title sponsorship, a logo on advertising, activation stand at a stadium, crowd giveaways, a corporate meet and greet, TV exposure analysis – leading to brand approval.

For art, there’s a VIP screening evening, a ‘young talent’ sponsored work display, meet n greet with artists and access for gallery influencers – leading to brand approval.

For film, the model uses product placement in the movie, talent interviews, premiere tickets, inclusion in launch communications and a cinema and TV distribution report  – leading, again, to brand approval.

When it comes to music there’s, err… no logo, no stand, no giveaways, no VIP screening, no meet and greet… so no one seems to be sure of what to approve!

Well, I’ve had a 16+ year career taking brands from the err’s to the extremely satisfied mmm’s and I can tell you all of the above is happening right now for many brands in music. All of these brands shared a feeling that music was important to their DNA in some way, but to commit they needed clear guidance, insights, return on investment, and transparency in execution. Ticking these boxes is the way we make music meaningful and effective.

So in summary, whether you’re a brand that feels there’s something in music, have a long standing history working with music, or you have no idea but are sure you need to tap into young people across the region – you can do it and it can be tracked, tested and evaluated. There’s never been a better time for regional brands to enter the music space errs – it’s as easy as in sport, art and film.

Digital news: How to maximise video content

Amer Attyeh, Head of MENA, Exponential Interactive, discusses the increasing move towards digital content in news, as well as how to utilise video content to maximum effect…

“In order for journalists and PR professionals to simply keep their jobs, digital and social needs to be a key part of their skill set and experience.”

There has been a massive change to the editorial ecosystem in recent years. Many positions have been cut, with a growing number of jobs appearing in the native digital news sector, and a significant number of high profile international journalists leading the charge to the digital space as online news sites such as Mashable, Buzzfeed and Yahoo become increasingly attractive. Some digital news producers are filling the gaps produced by increasing pressure on traditional news outlets, while others are developing new forms of storytelling such as video, crowdsourcing and new styles of documentary.

As the popularity of digital newsrooms continues to increase, particularly for the younger audience, traditional media outlets are having to transform themselves to keep up, offering more and more digital and social options to satisfy their audiences. Now it’s not even about staying ahead – in order for journalists and PR professionals to simply keep their jobs, digital and social needs to be a key part of their skill set and experience.

Video is set to be a key focus for online moving forwards, with companies dramatically increasing digital video advertising spend as a result of the increasing viewership in 2014. According to eMarketer, by the end of 2015, buyers and sellers will transact more than two billion dollars worth of video ads on programmatic platforms – nearly triple the spend of 2014. Successful journalists and PR professionals will need to continue to find ways to embrace the increasing growth in demand for video and content-driven marketing.

Engaging content goes far beyond one good video however; with the attention spans of our customers getting shorter, people are looking for more visual and memorable experiences, and one good video on its own is not enough. As a leading global provider of digital advertising solutions, we have plenty of insight into engaging users with online video:

  • The three key components to video are sight, sound and motion which need to work seamlessly together to create an emotive experience. If you take one of these (i.e. sound) away, the other two need to compensate together – using visual text or other prompts can be highly effective in these situations.
  • Attention spans are getting shorter, so it is important to focus on the first three seconds of the video and use the strongest asset as soon as possible, for example, if you have a celebrity, show them at the start.
  • Make sure you are familiar with analytics so that you can assess the success of your video, whether this is based on views, engagement or time spent on the video. Video should be a key component of your strategy, and therefore needs to be continually updated to reflect your audience’s needs and desires, as well as your results and objectives.

The digital evolution has impacted what news is reported, how it is reported, and even the language used to report. It has had an effect on our awareness, perceptions and demands, and created a much more convoluted and difficult to manage communications process. In order to avoid extinction, newspapers and TV networks need to embrace digital and create a revenue model that supports it – leveraging the value of their classifieds in order to stay ahead. Radio networks have their own issues thanks to the onslaught of digital players such as Spotify, with budgets that would have been purely for radio now being split to include these.

This movement has been more sudden and dramatic for the media industry than any we have seen before, and for those of us working in media and marketing, it offers both golden opportunities and nightmare-inducing fears. The only clear message is that this shift is not likely to slow down at any point, and only those who are open to change and who can see the opportunities provided by integration will succeed.

The power of X – how brand power can be enhanced with cool collaborations

Yara Hamarneh, Digital Strategist at Cheil MENA talks about how brands can boost their credentials with collaborations…

“Commercial success demands having a product for people to buy on top of an idea for them to buy in to, and one of the most powerful ways of facilitating this in our industry today is through collaboration”

Advertisers are often criticised for forgetting the fact that growing a brand is about selling products, as well as educating consumers. Commercial success demands having a product for people to buy on top of an idea for them to buy in to, and one of the most powerful ways of facilitating this in our industry today is through collaboration.

A collaboration may take many forms, including unique products and content, special editions and events, and it does not always have to involve big names or players.

In our region, celebrity endorsement is a popular form of collaboration widely used by big brands. L’Azurde and Elissa, Western Union and Amr Diab, Splash Fashion and Nicole Saba are simply a few examples. Another successful example of collaboration is Batelco’s gaming league partnership with Vortex gaming centers in Bahrain, which is targeting youth through a major passion point. Globally, we find examples of collaborations that can create deeper business value; Puma signing with Rihanna as Puma’s creative director for women’s products is an excellent example of collaboration done well. Adidas has also worked on a range of footwear with Pharrell Williams and the ubiquitous singer/producer is collaborating again on his ‘Bee Line’ collection with Timberland. Such collaborations can create value from a very early stage and this is carried out all the way from product creation to endorsement.

But what’s becoming increasingly important is the symbol that defines the collaboration – the symbol ‘X’.  This is a mathematical symbol that we all grew up calling ‘times’. More powerful than + (plus), it is the multiplier and when sales targets are subject to pressure, there is value in multiplying the equity in partnerships. It’s a symbol of collaboration that is becoming easily recognisable to consumers and to shoppers.

X signifies something new and worth looking out for to consumers. It is a form of syntax that could become as important to retailers as ‘new’, ‘free’ or ‘sale’.  It also enables a retailer to engage with shoppers, drive footfall and sales, and simultaneously strengthen relationships with customers through equity borrowed from collaborators.

The birth of digital & social media has boosted the number of brands’ collaborating with people, leading to crowd-sourced products, and ideas; all forms of collaborations with the power of X. We all still remember the Lay’s new chips flavor created as a result of collaboration with people on social media. Today, however, we see brands tend to follow the easier, safer, (and probably more expensive) collaborations on a digital front, which are all represented in a few endorsement posts by influencers that are, most of the time, irrelevant to the brand.

Collaborating with influencers can create much greater value to brands if they apply the same crowdsourcing formula that had been followed previously. Creating a deeper collaboration based on involvement will result in stories and positive personal experiences rather than promotional posts, thus allowing people to fully buy into your brand’s idea.

Why PR matters to entrepreneurs

Catherine Granger, Dubai-based entrepreneur and owner of Trajan Consulting, LKJ International (a luxury brands marketing agency) and the newly launched So Soulier shoe label, offers her thoughts on why PR is paramount to Entrepreneurs…

“I have started using a PR firm to market everything I do in business and this is translating into an increased bottom line”

Remember the time when you owned a company, found some paying customers, sold your product and then continued quietly on your way? Yes? Well those days are gone – long gone!

As someone who owns several businesses, I have watched over recent years as the importance of good public relations – whatever your brand – has soared. Not only does your name and logo have to be instantly recognisable, you have to be part of the zeitgeist, you need to be included in the conversation – and you need to be visible on a mind-boggling array of platforms.

I have started using a PR firm to market everything I do in business and this is translating into an increased bottom line. For example, I have designed and launched a shoe label, So Soulier, and it is not enough to find some nice shops willing to sell them – I know that people need to see them and talk about them on Twitter, on Facebook, in magazines and so on. Social media and savvier consumers have created a weird business world where commerce has merged with entertainment. And those who don’t embrace this fact will get left behind.

A common complaint I hear in Dubai is that PR companies charge the earth and often don’t deliver, and for a small enterprise that can be a real worry. My response to this is: do your research and shop around. You also have to understand what good PR actually feels like, looks like and sounds like. Business owners need to educate themselves about this brave new world and not just stick their heads in a spreadsheet and hope this horrible promotional stuff will go away, because it won’t. Besides, public relations can be fun if you do it right, and your audience will respond to that enjoyment.

One more thing I will say is that my appreciation of a well put-together press release has certainly grown. I am much more aware of a bore-you-to-death one too – in fact, I scrutinise what other companies are doing on this front and it’s quite revealing.

This is a 360-degree view, reality meets entertainment, everyone’s a media persona era – and there is no going back. Good old Oscar Wilde didn’t know how right he was going to be when he said: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” In my opinion, this pretty much sums up today’s business landscape.

The Seven Deadly Sins of PR

Rachel McArthur, Managing Editor of Digital Ink offers her thoughts on the pitfalls that many PRs fall into in the UAE, and how to overcome them…

It’s that age-old battle of Editors vs. PRs, and vice-versa. We’re the Tom & Jerry of media, constantly provoking each other.

PR: you can’t live with it; you can’t live without it. At least that’s what the majority of us journalists say. If you’re a Twitter user – or Facebook friends with media folk – chances are you have come across posts complaining about the state of PR, or journalism – or both. Yup, it’s that age-old battle of Editors vs. PRs, and vice-versa. We’re the Tom & Jerry of media, constantly provoking each other.

In all seriousness, neither is that bad and I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of annoying someone in the past. But when it comes to the most regular PR mistakes, myself – along with some close journo friends – thought we would highlight the most common sins:

1) Calls, Calls, Calls
This is number one on the list for the majority of journalists. Let me set the scene for you – you’re hard at work trying to meet client deadlines, but you keep getting distracted thanks to friends calling you up every 15 minutes about plans for the weekend. If you took every single call, you will have achieved next to nothing by the end of the day.

And that’s what it is like for us. For example, today my phone went off at least twice every hour for things that were not urgent. If you have sent me an email release and it is interesting/relevant, chances are I’ll probably use it. Maybe today, or later on in the month. But please don’t call me to check that I have received it.

Personally, I am also not a fan of phone pitches as I have the memory of a goldfish, and so if it is not on email, I will have forgotten about it by the end of the day. The only time calls are okay is when something is urgent.

2) Know Your Audience
A little research goes a long way in establishing good relationships with Editors. A release that is not relevant to my publication is like junk email – totally useless. If I am a celebrity writer, chances are I won’t be interested in covering the Dubai Business Forum. The opposite also happens – when a PR doesn’t approach the right people. Only last week somebody was telling me about a car launch event where the UAE’s top three motoring Journalists were not invited as the newly-appointed PR agency had no idea who they were. Oops…

3) Not responding to queries
A good PR professional is someone who is happy to talk at all times – not just when they have an event or press release etc. I have lost count of the times I have reached out with a query, only to have my email(s) not even responded to. Granted, a lot of times it is down to the client themselves, but clients need to understand that it’s just like customer service: they can’t just acknowledge good feedback and ignore complaints… people won’t respect your position in the market if you’re weak.

4) Images & WeTransfer
Why do some PRs send out a release without at a single decent image? An image resolution that will work for web might not necessarily work for print, therefore, always prepare high-resolution photos. But even worse than bad images are images sent via WeTransfer, and here’s why:

a) If it’s not a breaking news story, chances are we won’t need the images straightaway (e.g. product images, restaurants etc.), so we’ll label the email and refer to it later. Unfortunately, by the time we get back to it, the WeTransfer link has expired! Why not use Dropbox or Google Drive? Make it easy for the journalist to refer back to your releases and you’ll increase your chances of coverage.

b) WeTransfer takes ages to download, especially when the file is over 500MB in size. Dropbox allows us to browse/choose the images we download, as opposed to downloading a massive file just to use one image.

5) No, I am not a blogger
Yes, there are some massively influential bloggers out there, but there are also quite a few who have bought their way to the top (you know who you are). Don’t mix Journalists with Bloggers… we’ve spent years in this industry, we work hard, and we have crazy deadlines. So when organising interviews, for example, it goes a long way if you prioritise journalists who have to go back to the office asap and file copy. A friend of mine – who works with one of the UAE’s leading radio stations – was made to wait for two hours at a recent celeb event because some bloggers were given interview slots before her. This is despite the fact she had to go on air later on that afternoon, while chances are the bloggers posted their stories later on in the week.

6) Missing important info
Got listings/info for shopping pages? Send me product names, images, prices and stockists, and I will love you forever and ever. You’ve just saved me an email requesting missing info.

7) Being told I will get something for free
And finally… a Journalist will cover a story, because it is interesting and/or it is of interest to their readers, NOT because they will get something in return. Please don’t send me an email inviting me to an event with a note at the bottom saying: “If you attend, you will receive X, Y or Z.” If your event/story is strong enough, you won’t need to bribe people to come. Right?

Now, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone and I’m sure our PR friends have lots to say about Journalists/Editors as well… so I’m looking forward to reading that post! Who’s brave enough?

X marks the spot – the importance of target marketing

Andres Mongrue, Associate Regional Director at Starcom MediaVest Group, MENA offers his thoughts on why it is so important for markets to identify, and aim for, a target market…

For many of the largest clients present in the Middle East today, segmenting audiences is of critical importance.

“Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker, American Retailer, (1838-1922).

While the sentiment behind Wanamaker’s famous statement still rings true for some marketers today, a lot has changed since he originally turned the phrase. In today’s turbulent business economy, the need to maximise ROI for each dollar spent continues to drive marketers away from wasteful mass targeting choices of the past toward more efficient targeted communication.

The concept behind target marketing is simple; target relevant communication to the relevant audience in the right place and at the right time when they are most receptive to your message. This approach continues to replace mass communication of the past, where marketers targeted everyone with the same message in the hopes of it falling on their target audience – an approach that has proven to be costly and ineffective.

For many of the largest clients present in the Middle East today, segmenting audiences is of critical importance. Take, for example, a market like Egypt, which boasts a population exceeding 80 million; to reach everyone with one message would be highly inefficient for even the biggest media spenders. A marketer selling a line of shampoo products, for instance, would be better off identifying need-based target groups and focusing relevant communication to them. A mother of three living in rural Egypt will have a very different motivation for her purchase decisions, as well as a different set of media choices, versus a young millennial living in Cairo. Through a unique set of media choices such as digital, mobile and social, the marketer can deliver tailored messaging intended for the millennial, while TV speaks to the rural mother. This approach would lead to a much more efficient market strategy than trying to reach all 40-plus million women in Egypt at once.

While the concept of target marketing may not be new, the emergence of digital and data has changed how marketers go about it. As media companies such as Facebook evolve from a social media network to a $212 billion-dollar Tech company, they open up new possibilities on how to leverage the deluge of data available around the 1.44 billion users on their platforms. Today, marketers have at their disposal online behavioral data that allows them to get as granular as possible to target consumers by their purchases, interests, behaviors and even intent. The growing complexity can be daunting, but the best marketers are embracing this change and simplifying their approaches by always bringing their targeting strategies back to the business objective at hand.

The fundamentals of strategy are always the same

 “A company without a communication strategy is like a ship without a compass”

In an age where demonstrating results of PR campaigns and the ROI of communication spend is increasingly important, I am still amazed when I come across an organisation that is running full-speed with little or no communication strategy, project plan or activity calendar in place. Inside such organisations, panic sets in whenever the C-Suite demands a press release (often the demand is not newsworthy), when a journalist requests an interview, or product managers demand an awareness campaign.

A company without a communication strategy is like a ship without a compass – meaning that the communication will only ever be ad-hoc, a waste of time AND resources, and at best reactive. Reporting on the success of the communication programme without a proper strategy is impossible, and at best can only deliver a coverage report stacked full of clippings.

Fortunately for those who have yet to put a communication strategy in place, the fundamentals of strategy are the same regardless of what industry, type of communication (PR, investor relations, employee communication), or the medium you think you should be using. In a nutshell, communication strategy must cover at a minimum: research, objectives, approach, tools/tactics, resources/budgets and evaluation.

The real power of a communication strategy is identifying how it fits into the bigger organisational picture – how it supports the overall objectives, such as reputational, business growth etc. This is the big picture question that asks ‘what is the point?’.

When building a communication strategy, the first step is to completely understand the reason communication is needed. Is it to support a business plan, an individual project, or activity? You need to ask ‘what is the point?’ before going down the road of building your strategy.

Strategy is more than the glue that holds tactics together; it provides direction and rationale for everything that we do in communications. Without it, we would stumble aimlessly through a darkened business forest and can be successfully challenged and undermined at every step by one simple question: why?


“A true rebrand starts with values and ends with identity”

Npimedia had something of a makeover in 2014. However, when thinking about it, I realised that while our identity was changed last summer, it was the culmination of a rebrand that was several years in the making.

But let’s talk identity to begin with, as it is the simplest part. At NPI, we wanted a stamp and label that would be a reflection of our mantra of ‘Quality, Audience and Transparency’ (QAT). These are the brand values that make our media what it is – exclusive and standout in a competitive market place.

Our previous logo was red and white and simply said NPI. Our new logo is gold and reflects our heritage of being born in the UAE and in Arabic reads as the word “time”. Our business cards are shaped like a label. They have a black background and on one side bear the gold logo, on the other our company details arranged in an ‘X’ pattern to reflect the “exclusive” aspect of our identity, yet in a subtle way.

We also changed our official name. We are still NPI but the full name is npimedia rather than Nicholas Publishing International, which reflected the family-run business that has its roots in print. These days we have one hand in the inkwell and the other is only virtually there, so “media” was a better word to use rather than publishing. Many companies also have the word “international” in them but operate only in a handful of markets – this was true of us and in keeping with our transparency mantra, we dropped this and simply went with npimedia. Each of our products now bear the stamp “Exclusive media by NPI” so our clients know that they will stand out from first glance.

So, that’s the identity part. But a name and a look does not make a company any more than it does a person. Great brands have heritage and are crafted over time. Ours certainly was, but our quest for product perfection had led us to forget the umbrella.

We have leading media portfolios and had been working for several years on the delivery of our corporate mantra (QAT). We had moved to audit every one of our consumer titles and were working towards a new digital strategy. This needed to be reflected in our outward identity to do justice to everything that had taken place behind the curtain.

So, what is a rebrand? It is more than a new name or logo – this is just window dressing that only matters before you are able to see behind the curtain. A true rebrand starts with values and ends with identity.

How #hashtags changed the way we talk

Brandon Ancier, Head of Growth at TINT offers his thoughts on the ever prevalent #hashtag and how this has not only influenced the personal and professional sphere, but changed it…

Hashtags escaped Twitter and spread, like a plague, to Facebook, to Instagram, to everyday speech.

The hashtag arose in 2007 as a way to categorise and ‘tag’ tweets. It slowly gained traction, until 2009 or 2010 when suddenly hashtags (and their users) went rogue. These errant tweeters took hashtags from their good and purposeful tagging function, and changed them into something terrible – a form of parenthical commentary on the rest of the tweet.

Hashtags escaped Twitter and spread, like a plague, to Facebook, to Instagram, to everyday speech, where it is now acceptable to say things like ‘I love you guys! Hashtag blessed!’

Yup. The hashtag is a linguistic tumour. But do I think hashtags are destroying the English language? No. However, if they’re not destructive, what are they? Here’s what I found:

  • Hashtags are ‘ Paralanguage’ – Paralanguage is something you already use, every day. It’s the non-verbal cues that accompany speech and help us express meaning and tone – shoulder shrugs, intonation, facial expressions. But in the world of text, it is difficult to communicate these non-verbal ideas, such as sarcasm or self-mockery. Hashtags have expanded that ability drastically. When we now complain about tangled headphones and append #firstworldproblems, it shows we know our own complaints are ridiculous. Hashtags are not a tumour – they help us add a much-needed tonal layer to our communications.
  • Hashtags are our Greek Chorus – In 2012, when spoken hashtags were first causin’ a ruckus, New Republic published an article that claimed hashtags were a sign of our modern times – part of a recent trend to see ourselves in the third person. Saying “Hashtag happy” elicits a mental picture of the speaker viewed from a distance, labeled with the word happy. In this framework, hashtags are a way of distancing ourselves from our own words as a commentary on what we’ve just said or experienced, a shift in viewpoint from first person to third person, similar to the narrator of a book or a chorus in a Greek play. Hashtags are serving as a very ancient literary device.
  • Hashtags were always meant to mimic speech – The written word and the spoken word have always influenced each other in their formality. In the past we spoke more formally because of how formally we wrote. In the present, we write less formally because of how informally we speak. Speech and writing influence each other, and always have. The way language trends develop and words become popular IRL (in real life) is mimicked on Twitter. We really are writing how we talk.

What does this mean for language? Well, linguists are pretty much divided. Some say verbal hashtags are a passing fad. Others don’t. But in a recent Mashable article, Linguist Gerard Van Herk argues that Internet speak has made us smarter: “Today’s youth are much more aware of the social and stylistic uses and meanings of different genres and language types, and are able to discuss them using metalinguistic terms like meme,” he writes. Yeah. That’s right. We’re the generation that uses METALINGUISTIC TERMS in everyday speech. Feel brilliant yet? Good.

So, if you’re trying to create a hashtag that will stick, there is at least one lesson we can take from the linguistics: Hashtags that straddle multiple uses (tagging and paralanguage, narrative and the informality of speech) are most likely to be successful.

But a common failure with hashtags? They often only use the tagging function of hashtags – not the metacommentary function, or the paralanguage function. There is an easy litmus test to avoid creating the #corporatehashtagthatnoonewilluseever. Ask yourself: Would you say it in daily speech? Would Justin Timberlake?

The answer should be yes.

The balancing act – making the most of PR trends in 2015

Lale Ansingh, Founder and Managing Director of Rawaj Internationl offers an expert view on the PR trends for this year and how to stay ahead of the game when it comes to implementing them into agency strategy…

The base of the communication is no longer a monologue – it has turned into a dialogue, where consumers are able to give their feedback instantaneously.

The fast emerging trend of digital and social media has become a significant channel in the PR industry and has proven to be an integral part of daily communication. With the majority consuming their media on digital platforms nowadays – 80% of those on mobile – this illustrates a significant shift in consumer behavior, offering organisations and brands the opportunity to maximise reach and communicate directly with their audience; there is increasing pressure for businesses to keep up. Due to these factors and the world becoming a more global environment, the ever-expanding realm of digital media is only going to increase its influence in 2015; it offers limitless opportunities for creativity and has become a strong tool in diversifying existing communication. The most integral aspect of digital media is the effective measurement tools available, whereby consumer behavior can be monitored and tied directly to the bottom line. This offers marketers the ability to assess the effectiveness of campaigns on achieving business objectives.

In the Middle East, digital media is showing rapid growth – from the UAE having the highest market penetration for mobile phones to KSA having the highest penetration on Twitter. This adds a new dimension to the way we can communicate with our audiences. We have the ability to add more visuals to our communication that enhances our storytelling ability and engagement with target audiences.

Of course, the use of traditional PR channels is still very commonly used in the Middle East. PR is known as the ‘art of storytelling’; having relevant and consistent content distributed through print media is still a widely appreciated approach by readers, especially in this region. It adds credibility to a brand and creates trust with the audience because it is not a paid channel. In accordance, I strongly suspect that with the new digital trend, the challenge every organisation is going to face will be how to harness the power of both channels. In other words, in 2015 the strength of one’s communication effort will be measured with the success of one’s engagement strategy between digital and print communications.

It is therefore even more important nowadays for PR professionals to keep up-to-date on the trends and opportunities arising daily, to stay ahead of the competition and most importantly, stay relevant to the increasing demand of our target audience. Communications is no longer only about what brands have to say; it is based on what the audience wants to hear. Essentially, the base of the communication is no longer a monologue – it has turned into a dialogue, where consumers are able to give their feedback instantaneously.

Remember that with the shift in power from business to consumer, it is imperative to be relevant. Your content needs to be interesting and engaging to your target, always offering value. Make sure that you are measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns. Reassess, tweak and republish then start the cycle all over again.